Of all the nootropics and smart drugs that alter brain chemistry, there is little that makes as big of an impact as our diet. Dieting is a bigger industry and far more popular than nootropics or cognitive enhancement, but usually for physical attributes or general well-being.
Still, there are many millions taking particular approaches to their diet to alter cognitive performance. Practices like fasting are becoming more popular as is the Paleo diet and ketogenic diet.
This has led to the rise of all types of various products including the Swerve Sweetener, which may look good on paper, but we have a unique perspective on the whole thing.
Below we will breakdown what the Swerve Sweetener is, how it might be able to help you, and why we believe users need to re-evaluate priorities around health and wellness.
A Brief History on Sweeteners
Technology and science develops rapidly, but if we do not understand history we are doomed to repeat it. Looking back at various options to naturally and artificially sweeten products allows us to see which ways these products may affect us.
Some of the sweeteners in our past include:
- Natural sweeteners (Stevia)
In 1965 a man by the name of James Schlatter discovered aspartame accidentally when he spilled an anti-cancer drug test on his hand and tasted it . By 1981 it was approved for use in food products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States .
People thought the sweetener was great, the brand name NutraSweet sold millions of dollars worth of product…
…and then the research started pouring in.
Not only does aspartame have zero “long-term benefit for weight loss or in diabetes” , but there is plenty of evidence aspartame has carcinogenic effects that one study recommends “urgent need for regulatory re-evaluation” .
Within the span of 40 years, science finally caught up and found that aspartame and similar substances not only don’t do what they are supposed to, but they backdoor some pretty nasty side effects alongside it.
Over time new alternatives were found, which included more naturally derived options like Stevia. Even though this sounds good in theory, there are all sorts of problems in practice.
Swerve Sweetener: The Body Isn’t Fooled
Before we go too far, there is something basic that needs to be said:
Just because something is sweet and doesn’t include calories, doesn’t mean the body is fooled.
A 2013 study from the Journal of Physiology showed that the body still interacts with sweeteners in many of the same ways as traditional sugar. The brain releases dopamine (activating the brain’s reward center) and leptin is released, which is a hormone regulated to satiety .
The big problem with sweeteners is that there are no calories to shut off the pleasure pathway so it remains on. This typically creates cravings for carbs (more so than normal sugar would do).
Beyond this, there are psychological issues with artificial sweeteners in how we make choices. Dr. David Ludwig at the Boston Children’s Hospital explains research that shows humans are more likely to make other bad choices such as “I’m drinking diet soda, so it’s okay to have cake” .
This holds true for anything (hint: including Swerve Sweetener).
Swerve Sweetener Could Be Worse…
There is a hierarchy of artificial sweeteners and Swerve Sweetener is pretty high as far as your options go. While we don’t recommend artificial sweeteners in general, aspartame is a lot worse than the Swerve Sweetener.
According to the manufacturer, the Swerve Sweetener is “zero calorie, non-glycemic and safe…”. It supposedly has no effect on blood glucose or insulin levels. Because of this, it’s supposed to be safe, but as we noted above, this isn’t the full story.
The Swerve Sweetener is filled with erythritol (a common keto friendly and Paleo sweetener), oligosaccharides, and natural flavors. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol usually sourced from corn. There is some evidence that higher doses of erythritol has no toxic effects in animal models , but over what timeframe?
Erythritol in small doses over the course of decades could be a problem and, like aspartame, we just don’t have enough research.
Swerve Sweetener Flavor
It’s unsurprising that the Swerve Sweetener doesn’t taste 100% like sugar. The main constituent is erythritol, which is only 60 – 70% as sweet as sugar . According to some, there is a strange cooling sensation on the tongue after eating something made with Swerve Sweetener. Not appealing for most.
The Biggest Problem: What Are Our Real Priorities?
Aside from all the nitty gritty details showing why these sweeteners (and Swerve Sweetener is only the latest one) are not as great as they are made to be, there is a moral and ethical question involved.
As people interested in ancestral wellness, the Paleo diet, or low carbohydrate diets, why do we feel compelled towards things that were absolutely NOT in our environment?
Many people who use these sweeteners have an argument that we should follow more ancestral ways of being, but it does not make much sense to remove sugar from our diet (something we had in limited quantities throughout our lifespan) and replace it with an unnatural and processed substance.
I’d much prefer to eat sugar in the form of berries and even a bit of honey over any artificial sweetener if it is done in moderation.
The Swerve Sweetener might be one of the better options for someone who is struggling with an uphill battle, but it could also be doing more harm than good. It is too early to say exactly what the results are. We should re-evaluate what is important to us and if ancestral wellness is on that list, ditch the sweeteners, and just enjoy a bit of natural sugar.